Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time Awareness

One component of music making is that it is an aural manifestation of our sense of the passage of time. This article is about how the brain processes time.

. . . .“This is because your brain is constantly calibrating duration,” Eagleman explains. “If every time you flip on the lights there is a 200-millisecond delay, your brain recognizes the pattern and edits out the delay. Flip the switch, and the lights seem to turn on instantaneously. But if you moved to a funky house where the lights really did come on instantaneously, it would appear that they came on before you flipped the switch. Your brain is temporarily stuck on the old pattern.”. . .

. . . . This suggested that the brain maintains at least two separate versions of time, a master clock that feeds you a perception of the now, and another that is constantly at work tidying up that perception. . . .

. . . .unlike speech, which is processed in Broca’s area, or vision, which the occipital lobe handles—our sense of time is not centralized. . . .

. . . But Eagleman is finding that time might be relative even if the two observers are standing next to each other. He has a long way to go to prove that time is not the objective constant we think it to be, and that each person instead experiences time’s passage on an individual basis, but, he says, “it does make one wonder what else we’re going to learn along the way.”

This is the first time I've seen a researcher talking about something besides music that is processed in various parts of the brain simultaneously. The other thing is that I think most music makers have had the experience of time seeming to pass at different speeds, especially in moments of flow.

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